The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.
Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”
In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. "Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments," the statement said. "We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers."
Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)
“Amazon’s latest actions only further underscore how important it is that the appropriate federal agencies thoroughly investigate its destructive business practices,” the ABA stated.
Some indie booksellers and other industry professionals are using the broken embargo as an opportunity to encourage consumers to buy local. Literary agent Deborah Jacobs (who is also the publisher of French Press Editions in Brainerd, Minn.) asked on social media that people visit their nearest indie this week.
"Buy a book from an independent retailer," she wrote. "I want you to do this for a really good cause called democracy. And on behalf of law-abiding, on the up-and-up small businesses everywhere."
The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.
The store went to ask customers to "please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore" or to visit a story "on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”